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I have written several poems that reimagine female leads from Woody Allen films as Black women. In the context of how rarely we see a Black woman’s leisure depicted on the screen or in literature, I am interested in the process of rewriting Black women into rooms of popular culture that have been closed to them. And what more privileged planet to reinhabit than a Woody Allen film?
In “Black Annie Hall,” I wrote from my memory of watching the film, using a different scene as the occasion for each stanza. What happened as the poem grew is that, even as I found myself feeling empowered by this new Annie’s freedom to do as she pleases, it became impossible not to find contrasts: a black widow, for instance, in a black-and-white bathroom, a black hat, a glass of white wine. The stanzas then became a litany of black, then white, but not always of the body until the final stanza, when Annie is in contrast with her white lover. By the end, I wondered if she was not, in this world of total contrast, an even lonelier version of Annie. When I recall the film now, I imagine myself as Diane Keaton, and I suppose that is an outcome I also wanted: to be granted a kind of permission to see myself as a Black woman in places where there is no trace of me.



in a black wool hat
& black suspenders
in line to see The Sorrow
& the Pity again

with khaki slacks
& an afternoon free
black Annie has trouble
hailing a cab
after seeing her analyst

on her roof,
black Annie
drinking white wine
after tennis
& dewy

Annie, living alone
calls for help to kill
a black widow spider
in her bathroom

black Annie is bored
so she takes adult courses
& can’t decide
between philosophy
or poetry

lucky today, black Annie
driving 80 on the West
Side Highway with the top
back, hair unmoved

black Annie’s white
boyfriend asks her
not to smoke
that marijuana cigarette
in bed & out-

Rio Cortez is a Pushcart-nominated poet who has received fellowships from Poet’s House, Cave Canem, and CantoMundo. Raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, she lives and writes in New York.